I’ve set down my beach chair, my feet are well ensconced in the sand, the sunscreen has been dutifully applied and I am focused on the sparkling blue water as the warm Florida sunshine pours over me. In a state of tranquility, I am enjoying the perfect day, with not a care in the world.
I have three requirements for a great beach day or beach vacation:
1. A fabulous beach (of course) – surrounded by
2. Pristine authentic Florida nature and
3. Great seafood, nearby
This would be my definition of the perfect day, no, make that the perfect life – lived just for today.
Does this sound too good to be true? Well, read on, I may have a wise tip for you.
Let’s start with a fabulous beach. Overall, most Florida beaches are beautiful – with sand, water, and waves. Simple enough. But I‘ve always thought that a really good beach was one that is undeveloped, spacious and wide-open. And, well, I have to say it – not crowded. I prefer one that is not lined with rows of condos, homes or urban sprawl. One where I don’t have to zig-zag through a gauntlet of beach towels, chairs and umbrellas to get to the water.
But, is this possible in a state that serves as the Mecca for Tourism?
It’s very possible. Florida’s best-kept secret beaches are the ones located within or near state parks or preserves and almost always surrounded by beautiful nature – pine forests, scrub, mangroves, and oak hammocks. In many Florida parks, you can find beaches and “real” Florida in one package.
So that leaves seafood. When I am at the beach, I work up an appetite and get hungry for fresh seafood. After all, I’m looking at the ocean or Gulf, watching fish swim and fisherman catch tonight’s dinner. So, my go-to meal is always fresh – no, make that very fresh seafood.
So, combining these three requirements – great beaches, surrounded by Florida nature, and topped with fresh seafood – I recommend a special place called St. George Island State Park.
On Florida’s Panhandle, south of Apalachicola and East Pointe, lies St. George Island. St. George is a vacation destination and fairly typical of popular barrier islands with the usual amenities – accommodations, restaurants and shops. But on the east end, you’ll find the lesser-discovered, delightful St. George Island State Park.
I can sum up St. George Island State Park in one word: Pristine.
To start, there are nine miles of lovely beaches. Add to that camping, fishing, kayaking, hiking and biking and you’ve got a lot of fun in one place. It’s not only spectacular, with towering sand dunes amidst untouched Florida, it’s also just minutes away from great seafood.
On the north side of the island is Apalachicola Bay where some of the world’s finest oysters are harvested, providing area restaurants with the daily “catch”. On that same north side you’ll find great fishing and camping. You’ll be captivated with sugary white towering sand dunes, fallen oak trees and an array of the untouched natural beauty of Florida that is becoming harder to find.
On the south side is the Gulf of Mexico with non-stop beaches and plenty of room to take long walks, with only a few people to share it. The gentle waves of the Gulf of Mexico make it soothing and relaxing while you discover miles of sand and water. The park amenities are some of the best anywhere – providing extra clean bathrooms, showers and walkways to the sandy shores.
After a spectacular day sunning, swimming and adventuring, you have certainly earned a good meal. Now you can head to the other end of the island for seafood. It’s safe to say most St. George restaurants, or those in Apalachicola and Eastpointe (across the bridge), will have fresh oysters – on the half shell, steamed, grilled, or in chowder. Fresh shrimp is another great local choice, and there’s plenty of good fish on the menus too. So expect fresh.
If you are going to Apalachicola, almost every restaurant is good. But locals love Papa Joes Oyster Bar. You can be sure that good seafood reigns in this area. The fishermen come up to the docks and deposit fresh seafood daily.
I promise that St. George Island State Park will be one of your favorites. There’s so much to do and it’s all enjoyable – even if you do nothing but sit on the beach, letting the salt water, the sounds of the gulls and the warmth of the sun take you to a place of true serenity. No matter what your interest, authentic Florida – beaches, nature and seafood – will keep you coming back.